Thursday, June 13, 2024

With eye on more sports gear, Evergreen expanding manufacturing capabilities at Midlo HQ – Richmond BizSense

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Evergreen Enterprises is expanding its in-house manufacturing capabilities to meet demand for sports-themed items such as doormats. (Photos courtesy Evergreen Enterprises)

A local retailer is putting into play new in-house manufacturing capability to be more responsive to spikes in demand for sports gear.

Evergreen Enterprises plans to convert 20,000 square feet of office space at its headquarters campus at 5915 Midlothian Turnpike into a production center to emblazon team logos and other designs on items like doormats and drinkware sold by the company.

john toler evergreen enterprises

John Toler

CEO John Toler said sports merchandise as a category will see unexpected demand when an athlete suddenly becomes popular or a particular team has a good season, which creates a stocking problem for the Richmond-based wholesaler. Customers will clean out the offerings for a team, and Toler said products from overseas can often arrive after the team’s popularity fades and before Evergreen can fully capitalize on the trend.

“You never have enough of it and they want it right after their team wins. They want it right at the time of the event. And if you’re importing things out of China, it’s very difficult to do,” Toler said. “We have the rights to hundreds of MLB, NHL, NFL and collegiate schools, but to take stocking positions in all of those is burdensome.”

So as an alternative to stocking up on everything, Evergreen is transitioning toward a model where it stockpiles unadorned merchandise and puts the finishing, decorative touches on as needed in-house.

“You’re trying to basically have all of the right stuff at the right time. And then Caitlin Clark gets hot and everyone wants Iowa merchandise,” Toler said, referencing the now-former University of Iowa basketball player turned WNBA pro who recently rose to prominence.

evergreen doormat 1 scaled

Evergreen Enterprises plans to spend about $1 million to renovate and equip 20,000 square feet of former office space at its Richmond headquarters to expand its production facilities.

Evergreen, which sells a wide variety of home and garden decor, plans to continue to source most of its finished products from China. Toler said that remains the best option for items that have a more consistent or seasonal popularity, like holiday-themed items. But the in-house manufacturing push is intended to make the company more nimble when it comes to sports items.

“Print on-demand product is perfect for those. Patriots win the Super Bowl? We’re making Super Bowl champs, Patriots products within 12 hours,” he said.

Demolition work on the former office space on its campus is slated to start in the coming weeks. Evergreen anticipates it will spend $1 million to build out and equip the space to handle production operations.

Evergreen already has a small in-house production facility, but the latest project ups the ante with additional space for more equipment to handle a wider variety of products.

In 2025, Evergreen plans to have operational production lines dedicated to adding designs to drinkware and pressing decorative flags. The company earlier this year started to print images on doormats, and has stamped wallets with sports team logos for more than a decade.

evergreen wallet 1 scaled

Evergreen Enterprises has stamped logos onto wallets in-house since 2011, but more recently has moved to increase its ability to provide the finishing, decorative touches to products on its Richmond campus.

Geopolitical trends, not just customer tastes, are another factor driving the effort. Toler said Evergreen’s expanded in-house production capacity will better insulate it from effects of cooling trade relations between the United States and China. The new initiative is also intended to make the company less susceptible to supply-chain disruptions.

The move deeper into in-house production follows a series of recent renovations at Evergreen’s headquarters, showroom and warehouse at the Midlothian Turnpike campus. The project entailed improvements to packaging and shipping areas and updating office space.

The 250,000-square-foot facility on Midlothian Turnpike is owned by an LLC tied to Evergreen founder and chairwoman Ting Xu.

Evergreen earlier this year began to wind down its direct-to-consumer operations and lay off about 100 employees to focus on its core wholesale business. Toler previously said the company planned to continue to send out catalogs for its Plow & Hearth retail brand through July and take down the brand’s web store in the fall. Evergreen is also planning to sell its Wind & Weather and VivaTerra brands.

Evergreen has also in recent years trimmed down Plow & Hearth’s brick-and-mortar operations, and closed its Short Pump outpost as part of the process. Evergreen continues to operate three Plow & Hearth stores, two of them in Madison County and the other near Williamsburg.

Evergreen was founded in 1993. Customers for its wholesale products include Lowe’s, Walmart and Home Depot, as well as 15,000 smaller retailers.

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